Dollars? Therapy? Communication? Social? Nonprofit? Profit?
Yes, all the above and more. At the very core of the creative process, the artist is mining out a deeply held sentiment that is expressed through the artist's chosen media. At this most elemental level, the first value has already been created. It is for the artist alone. It is snapshot of the artist's ego at that moment. If the painting is hidden in a closet, the song sung to an empty room, the sculpture smashed upon completion, the value to the lone artist has already been made.
The next level of value comes from the sharing of the artistic work. The reaction can be happy, enthralled, bored, angered, repulsed, and the whole range of other emotions. The interaction between the artist and an audience adds dimension to the work. It is affected by prior works and will affect works to come. Criticism is taken well, or taken poorly.
The value of the art has expanded exponentially as a function of the number and degree of those appreciating it. If the art is popular, many will be inspired it to create work in their own medium. Some will copy the work, some will expand upon it, and some will take it in a completely different direction, like free neutrons splitting atoms in an atomic chain reaction.
The sum of the total energy generated in reaction to a work of art can greatly exceed the energy put into creating it. The social value of the work of art builds as the core sentiment behind the work channels through other artists and other media. Classic music can inspire hip hop. Cave drawings can inspire fashion design. And, as we all know, pop stars and can inspire many imitators. The social value of art spans across time, space, and thought, at the speed of a brush put to canvas. Some locations become a "destination attraction" to art tourists: Rome, Paris, New York, Berea Kentucky www.kentuckyartisancenter.ky.gov, "Distinctively Creative" Paducah Kentucky www.paducah.travel. Both big cities, and small rural towns, what makes these places special for their artistic community?
The economic value of art is perhaps the trickiest part to pin down. Why is a painting sometimes worth more after the artist is dead? What make collectors rush to buy one artist's work this week, only to abandon that artist's work next week in favor of another's work? When digital media allows the artist's work to go global within seconds of being posted on the web, what is owed to the artist for his contribution to the great bowl of soup of artistic creation?
Should an artist be able to make a living by creating art? You will not find answers to these questions in this column, in fact, these answers are being debated and changed even as you read the static words on this page. Be a part of the debate. What do you think? What is the value to you personally of living among an active growing community of artists right here in South Florida? Wouldn't it be great if Lehigh Acres and the other inland communities around us were one of those "destination attractions" for the arts?